Taking the ‘work’ out of a winter workout

college students frolick in the snow

Jan. 20, 2016

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Old Man Winter might play havoc with your driving and dry skin, but the arrival of the "fluffy white stuff" and cold temperatures can also open up a whole new world of adventures.

Rather than just hunkering down until spring, experts advise you need to fight the urge to "cocoon" and find ways to keep actively engaged both physically and mentally.

"This is the time of year where people really put up barriers to being active," said Carena Winters, SRU assistant professor of exercise and rehabilitative sciences. "Everyone says 'It's too cold,' 'It's too dark' or wants to pull the covers over their heads.

"Ironically, at the time of year we need activity the most, it's the last thing on our 'to do' list," continued Winters. "Exercise seems to be a bad word for a lot of people, but it doesn't have to be. There are plenty of opportunities to get up and move that are much less like work and much more like play."

Winters' point is simple: don't look at winter weather as a hindrance, but rather as an opportunity.

The best part is that none of it will feel like exercise, yet still allow you to elevate your heart rate and get your inner child up off the couch.

Want to start small and simple? Try making snow angels, which on average can burn 214 calories per hour. Besides, how much easier can it be to do jumping jacks...then while you're lying down?

How about staging a "residence hall challenge" snowball fight (320 calories/hour) and see who waves the white flag of surrender first? Switch things up by playing baseball with broomsticks and snowballs. You'll get a nice aerobic workout thanks to all the throwing and swinging, and with a few runs around the "bases," you'll be staying fit and having fun.

Don't forget the age-old tradition of building a snowman (224 calories/hour). Stage a contest between roommates, floors or residence halls to see who can design the coolest Frosty on campus. All the squatting down and pushing of giant snowballs provides a great workout for your legs and back. And for good measure, snack on a few of those carrot noses while you're at it.

According to Andy Loue, coordinator of campus recreational programming, other popular on-campus winter activities include trail running, snowshoeing and mountain biking.

Mountain biking, said Loue, is a newer trend that requires cyclists to have "fat" or oversized tires coupled with packed snow in order to go for a spin. Participants get all the benefits of regular cycling, plus a little extra, as the uneven surfaces of trodden snow require greater use of your core and stabilizing muscles.

"Once the snow falls, you can also see cross-country skiers making their way across the intramural fields," said Loue, noting that the ARC - the University's student recreation center - offers free, experiential-based lessons, based on weather conditions, for members who want to try the sport for the first time.

The hill behind SRU's Ski Lodge provides perfect opportunities for tubing, snowboarding or sledding. Repeatedly hiking up the slope will not only blast calories, but also up your cardio capacity and strengthen leg muscles at the same time. And let's face it; you'll be too busy getting ready to fly back down the hill to even consider what you're doing is exercise.

Not enough snow outside? How about lacing up the skates and hitting the ice? Indoors or out, ice skating can burn more than 450 calories per hour. Got a large group? Grab a puck and some sticks and have an impromptu hockey game whether you decide to keep score or not.

Additionally, there are a variety of off-campus activities to take advantage of at the Jennings Environmental Center and Moraine State Park.

Offering trails for walking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing alike, Jennings is open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays, 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

According to Miranda Crotsley, program coordinator for Jennings, snowshoe "loaners" are available in sizes for preschoolers to adults, once the snow hits a depth of four inches or greater, while offering five miles of cross-country ski trails.

Additional winter programming at Jennings includes:

• "Full Moon Snowshoe Experience," Jan. 23, snowshoe walk in the forest by the light of the full moon, complete with pre-walk fire and hot cocoa. Snowshoes will be provided.

• "The Great Backyard Bird Count," Feb. 13, is a free event that engages bird watchers in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of local bird populations. Staged across the country, participants are asked to count birds for as little as 15 minutes and report their sighting at birdcount.org. Findings are submitted to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. In 2015, more than 140,000 participants nationwide submitted data.

• "Backyard Maple Sugaring," Feb. 27, instruction includes choosing appropriate trees for tapping, collecting and evaporating maple sap. Participants will learn, observe and practice the steps in the sugaring process and discover how it can be done on a backyard scale.

Like Jennings, Moraine State Park - which covers more than 16,000 acres - also offers cross-country skiing in addition to sledding near the Pleasant View Picnic Area, snowmobiling (conditions permitting) across 26 miles of trails, ice fishing (conditions permitting in the Game Propagation Area), ice skating on the Pleasant Valley Day cove and iceboating.

"That's what so great about play," Winters said, "it doesn't have to be structured, but the benefits can be just the same as what a gym workout can provide...and all you have to do is have fun."


MEDIA CONTACT: Robb King | 724.738.2199 | robert.king@sru.edu